The lights are on
This year wasn’t dense with horror games, but thankfully our round-up list of the scariest moments isn’t limited to a specific genre. Any game is eligible as long as it had a specific moment that elicited a shock or gnawing tension. Our Scariest Video Game Moments of 2013 list includes events from non-horror titles like BioShock Infinite and more predictable games like Outlast.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Routine Run Gone Wrong – State of Decay
This open-world zombie survival game delivers an omnipresent sense of dread. Supplies and survivors are finite, so being careful is critical. Establishing a base and strategically making supply runs to nearby buildings is the logical way to do things. That way, if too many zombies appear a mission can be scrapped and you can quickly run back to base. But given the unpredictability of Undead Lab’s title, a routine run can be botched thanks to a broken weapon or accidentally stumbling across a horde. Having to run for your life or risk losing a precious survivor is among the terrifying moments of 2013.
Return of the Water Monster – Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
One of the standout moments from Amensia: The Dark Descent involves being stalked through the water by a deadly invisible beast. A similar creature returns in A Machine for Pigs. Players are walking across rusty catwalks high above pools of blood when a walkway collapses. Falling into waist-high blood is bad enough, but then the splashing footsteps of an unseen foe close in from behind. Wading through the macabre pool to evade certain death is a standout moment from thechineseroom’s title.
Meet the Clickers – The Last of Us
Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece starts off with a shocking disaster and gut-wrenching loss. The following battles against rival survivors are tense and difficult, but the true horror of the cordyceps fungal infection doesn’t sink in until Joel and Ellie enter a dark, abandoned basement. Players lack both sufficient weaponry and knowledge of the clickers at this point. It’s difficult to forget your first death at the hands of these fast, ravenous foes. Sneaking past these blind abominations is made more nerve wracking thanks to their extreme lethality.
The Boys of Silence – BioShock Infinite
The BioShock series isn’t focused on delivering scares, but its moody environments and deranged inhabitants are frightening in their own right. BioShock Infinite takes a turn into ‘80s slasher territory when Booker has to sneak past a pack of masked maniacs that can be stirred into a murderous frenzy by the bizarre Boys of Silence. After carefully sneaking past these initially docile killers, one of these creatures appears out of nowhere. The jump scare is accentuated by the unsettling alarm it raises.
The Marker’s Touch – Dead Space 3
Isaac Clarke is no longer vulnerable to the psychological trauma caused by the volatile Marker artifact. However, his new partner is not so lucky. During special co-op missions the player controlling Carver experiences hallucinations linked to his family. Where Carver might see unnerving birthday party decorations for his distant son, Isaac sees coffins. The mental disconnect between these characters makes trekking through the necromorph-laden corridors even more suspenseful.
Horror Vision – The Oculus Rift
A host of prototype horror games hit the Oculus Rift this year. Combined with headphones the VR headset can easily isolate players, forcing their faces into dark worlds. While any of these Oculus Rift games are likely to cause sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate, Dreadhalls is specifically effective. The game senses when you look down in real life to check your map, spawning enemies closer for a grim surprise upon looking back up. The in-your-face visage of a bloody woman and following shrill scream are enough to make players rip the device from their heads.
Death Strikes – Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
One of the most dangerous foes in this expanded version of Capcom’s challenging RPG is death itself. The Grim Reaper phases into existence wielding a lantern and his trademark scythe. The magical light puts your entire party to sleep, allowing him to ready his blade and chop you all down with one fell swipe. His unpredictability and overpowered attack make for a nasty surprise to those who haven’t saved recently. Unless your party is leveled to end-game standards, your best bet is to run like hell when he suddenly appears.
The Doctor is in – Outlast
The brazen journalist who enters a suspicious insane asylum in Outlast has a predictably bad time. One of his most frightening situations involves a deranged doctor who performs some impromptu surgery. The doctor is wearing little more than an apron, flaunting his flabby butt as he readies his sharp instruments. He then proceeds to surgically remove your fingers in a gory display that will catch the weak of stomach off guard.
The Critical Oversight – Papers, Please
This indie document-checking simulation is a monotonous yet entertaining grind, but intense surprises are sprinkled throughout. Players must defuse ticking time bombs and gun down kamikaze attackers. Yet the most nerve-fraying experience is waiting to hear the dot matrix printer sound of a citation being printed out. Screw up too many people’s papers and the harsh government begins docking your pay, which means your family may die without food and heat. Our Pavlovian reactions to that old-school printer noise are forever imprinted in our psyche.
The Screecher Attacks – Don’t Starve
Don’t Starve’s short DLC offering features a camper trying to escape a park while being stalked by an awful monster. The original Don’t Starve already has an underlying sense of dread and fragility thanks to its oppressive wooded environment, scant resources, and manipulative insanity system. The Screecher adds a new element similar to horror games incorporating Slenderman. Shining your flashlight on the owl-headed Screecher causes the beast to sprint after you. Stumbling upon the twisted creature when it’s too late is a harrowing experience.
Did we miss a moment you found genuinely terrifying? Share your traumatic experience in the comments.